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Facing the Challenge of Electronic Waste (e-waste)

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Staples Launches Nationwide Electronics Recycling Program

Staples, Inc. announced that it is becoming the first national retailer to offer computer recycling in stores every day. Customers can bring in their obsolete electronic scrap to any Staples store. All the equipment will be recycled in accordance with environmental laws. All brands will be accepted, regardless of whether or not the equipment was purchased at Staples, for a fee of $10 per large item.

Staples is working with Amandi Services, one of the country's most experienced and innovative electronics recyclers, to handle recycling of the equipment, following standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company said there is no limit on the quantity of equipment that can be recycled. The fee will be used to cover handling, transport, product disassembly and recycling. Smaller computer peripherals, such as keyboards and mice, will be recycled for free.

Staples Easy Tech service is on site in all stores to transfer data from an old computer to a new one for a fee. Equipment is bagged and sealed when customers drop them off at the Staples customer service desk. The equipment is picked up and delivered to Amandi Services, which disassembles the equipment into its component parts and destroys any data on the system. Amandi recycles the raw materials. The CRTs, which are the most hazardous part of electronics waste, are recycled using Amandi's proprietary technology into a raw material that is used to manufacture new televisions. For more information on Staples environmental programs visit their Staples Soul - Recycling Web site

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E-waste Recycling/Handling Resources

Modern society has produced a wide array of electronic devices that have been a boon to productivity and personal enjoyment. The rapid pace of technological advancement continues to offer opportunities for new or upgraded electronic equipment. In turn, electronic waste or e-waste is now the fastest growing segment of Tennessee's solid waste stream.

E-waste is a general category for electronic products facing displacement or replacement that are hazardous due to the toxic metals present with their internal materials, coatings and glass. E-waste contains metals and other materials that can be hazardous to human health and the environment if they are not properly managed. According to an EPA study, 40% of the lead in U.S. landfills is from discarded electrical and electronic products. E-waste may include personal computers, monitors, televisions, keyboards, printers, telephones, typewriters, calculators, copiers, fax machines and audio equipment.

Why Recycle or Recover e-waste?

There are commodities worth capturing in e-waste plus there are substances of concern in electronics that should be kept out of the environment. Traditional recycling commodities in computers and components include glass, metals and plastic. The metals include ordinary metals like aluminum and steel; precious metals like gold and platinum; as well as toxic heavy metals including cadmium, nickel and lead. Most computer recyclers utilize an integrated approach that seeks to refurbish whole systems, gather working parts for reuse and locate scrap markets for remainder of the materials.

Core electronics recycling typically includes computer components such as central processing units (CPUs), cathode ray tubes (CRTs)/monitors, printers, mice, keyboards and other peripherals. Beyond computers e-waste recycling includes televisions, cell phones and other personal portable electronic devices like pagers and PDAs.

NOTE: Electronic devices like photocopiers, stereo equipment, DVD players and gaming platforms are not always accepted for recycling.

Preferred Options When Handling e-waste

The volume, weight, storage needs and costs associated with e-waste present special challenges but can be safely managed if individuals, organizations, communities and agencies take thoughtful, coordinated action. Best management practices prescribe e-waste to be handled in the most environmentally desirable method. It is helpful to understand the preferred hierarchy for handling e-waste:

Growth of Personal Computers
According to recent estimates, there are over 1 billion personal computers in use worldwide today; a number that would have been unimaginable just 20 years ago. This massive growth in computer sales translates to an equally substantial growth in the number of unwanted computers. Until recently, donating or discarding your old systems were the only options. However, a more comprehensive electronics recycling industry has developed in response to the market demand in the last few years.
    1. Reuse of electronic equipment, components or demanufactured items.
    2. Recycling of equipment or components for material recovery.
    3. Management of components for energy recovery.
    4. Disposal of components via incineration.

Managing e-waste is not a simple process. It requires time, understanding and effort. The department is pleased to share more specific information on e-waste and electronics recycling tailored to these different stakeholders:

  • Communities
  • Households and Individuals
  • Business and Institutions
  • Electronic Recyclers and Recovered Materials Processors